Objective: Ritual female genital surgery (RFGS), or female circumcision, is common among certain ethnic groups in Asia and Africa and describes a range of practices involving complete or partial removal of the female external genitalia for nonmedical reasons. Several studies in African populations, in which more severe forms of RFGS are performed, reported an increased prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric syndromes among circumcised women than among uncircumcised controls. Among the Bedouin population in southern Israel, RFGS has become a symbolic operation without major mutilation. However, in a study performed in 1999, Bedouin women after RFGS reported difficulties in mother-daughter relationships and trust. This pilot study assessed the mental health of Bedouin women from southern Israel after RFGS compared to age-matched controls without RFGS.
Method: The psychological impact of RFGS was assessed in 19 circumcised Bedouin women compared to 18 age-matched controls. The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Scale, Symptom Checklist, Impact of Event Scale, and a demographics and background questionnaire were used to assess traumatization and psychiatric illnesses. The study was conducted from March to July 2007.
Results: No statistically significant differences were found between the 2 groups.
Conclusions: The prevailing procedure of RFGS among the Bedouin population of southern Israel had no apparent effect on mental health.